OEMs Show Interest in Road-Rail Machinery

mobile excavator

Construction machinery that has both rubber tires for driving on or off highways and also metal wheels for working along railway lines is a specialist category usually left to specialists.

In general, a specialist company will take a standard construction excavator or crane and make the necessary conversion to enable the machine to run on metal rail tracks as well.

Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like Atlas and Sennebogen, have had success in the road-rail niche market, but the biggest OEMs have generally regarded it not worth their while to make such niche road-rail machines that can never be expected to sell in high volumes. They have bigger lakes in which to fish.

However, there are at least two exceptions – first Liebherr and now Caterpillar – that suggest the big manufacturers are taking a keener interest in such special application machinery.

Liebherr

After showing a prototype at Bauma 2013, Liebherr launched its A 922 Rail Litronic two years ago as a dual purpose machine for working either on the road or on railway tracks. The rail travel drive is mounted on either side of the undercarriage. When moving onto rails, the rail travel drive lifts the tyres to rail height, whereby the inside wheels of the dual tyres keep the excavator firmly on the tracks.

As well as the standard design, a narrow track and a friction wheel design are also available. Another option for the A 922 Rail Litronic is an add-on axle that can be attached to the rear rail-wheel assembly. By converting the road-rail excavator into a three-axle vehicle, it allows it to be licensed for use on public roads in markets where restrictions apply.

The A 922 Rail Litronic has an operating weight of 19,900 to 22,800 kg and power output of 110 kW (150 horsepower) from its Liebherr D 834 diesel engine.

Caterpillar M323F

At this year’s Bauma Caterpillar took the wraps of a very similar specification machine – its prototype Cat M323F railroad excavator, with 112kW net power from a Cat C4.4 Acert engine and a 22,900 kg operating weight. The final version will be available in the coming months, once all the various type approvals that are required are secured in the target markets of Germany, France and the UK.

“The M323F will comply with the strict EN15746 European railway standard and add further customer value with exceptional on-track stability, low operating costs, simplicity of operation, ease of maintenance and a comfortable, secure operator’s station,” Caterpillar says.

Cat construction equipment

One might assume that road-rail machines made by companies with the engineering sophistication of Cat and Liebherr will naturally be superior to those made by small local workshops that make their own modifications, adding rail bogies to standard OEM machines. But I am not sure that this is a safe assumption. The local workshop is likely to be closer to the customer and better understand their requirements than a big international organisation. The local adapter may only be working to satisfy one or two specialist customers, whereas Caterpillar and Liebherr are doubtless aiming for greater sales volume within this limited niche market, so will naturally be aiming to satisfy all.

It will be interesting to hear from railway contractors whether they feel that the OEMs have achieved their aims, or whether they prefer the locally adapted machines on which they have previously relied.

Steve Rhine

About Steve Rhine

Community Manager at MachineryZone USA - All latest construction news on MachineryZone Mag!